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Authors: Santa Montefiore

The Italian Matchmaker

BOOK: The Italian Matchmaker
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THE ITALIAN MATCHMAKER

 

Santa Montefiore

 

www.hodder.co.uk

Praise for Santa Montefiore and THE ITALIAN MATCHMAKER:
‘This is quite simply a beautiful read and will make you believe again in love that conquers all’
News of the World
‘Montefiore is adept at writing perceptive character analysis . . .
The Italian Matchmaker
will lighten up even the most gloomy of readers’
Sunday Express
‘If you’ve finally got that longed for glass of chilled Prosecco . . . now is the perfect time to read this gripping romance . . . It is as believable as the writing is beautiful’
Daily Telegraph
‘It twangs on every heartstring, presses every button and is utterly irresistible . . . It’s lovely stuff – glossy lifestyle glamour with a soul . . . you’re spellbound by the sheer charm of the enterprise’
Daily Express
‘Santa Montefiore is a superb storyteller of love and death in romantic places in fascinating times’
Plum Sykes
‘Anyone who likes Joanna Harris or Mary Wesley will love Montefiore’s atmospheric romance’
Mail on Sunday
Also by Santa Montefiore
 
Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree
 
The Butterfly Box
 
The Forget-Me-Not Sonata
 
The Swallow and the Hummingbird
 
Last Voyage of the Valentina
 
The Gypsy Madonna
 
Sea of Lost Love
 
The French Gardener
 
First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Santa Montefiore 2009
The right of Santa Montefiore to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
Epub ISBN 978 1 848 94671 2
Book ISBN 978 0 34084 054 2
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NWl 3BH
For Louis Dundas
 
Love for ever
CONTENTS
 
1
 
England
Spring, 2001
Luca stood alone in the library, gazing out of the window at the glistening gardens of Dinton Manor. The clouds hung low and heavy in the Hampshire sky, releasing a light but persistent drizzle. A couple of blackbirds pecked the grass in search of worms before returning to the towering lime trees that had just begun to sprout new green leaves. The peaceful silence was punctuated every now and then by whoops of laughter that erupted from the drawing-room on the other side of the hall where the rest of the house party were commenting loudly on the Sunday papers or playing Scrabble. Luca found their
joie de vivre
grating. He had only come for Freya, having lost touch with her over the years. He admired her home, her family, her obvious contentment, and realised that in the last two decades he had somehow drifted off course.
He blew smoke against the glass, lost in a fog of melancholy as he considered his life. He was forty-one. Single again. Father of two little girls entangled in the wreckage of an acrimonious divorce. Unemployed, having quit the City after twenty years as a fund manager, making money with such dedication that making money had become an end in itself – a greedy, empty existence that gave him no satisfaction.
He had left the City in a blaze of speculation. Telephones had buzzed as the news travelled across continents, leaving the banking world in a state of shock. Luca Chancellor, with a billion under management, had sold out to his two partners and just walked away. No one could explain it and Luca wasn’t giving any answers. Instead, he had put his head down, turned off his mobile telephone and fled to the countryside. After a structured life in finance his newfound freedom made him uneasy; it had no limits.
Before he could dwell further on his unravelling life, he sensed he was no longer alone. The scent of ginger lily reminded him of that summer long ago when he and Freya had been lovers. She slid her arm around his waist and leaned against him.
‘Here you are, Luca. What are you doing?’
‘Thinking.’
‘Thinking’s dangerous. What are you thinking about?’
The smile in her voice encouraged him. ‘You and me. Summer of seventy-nine.’
‘You mean the summer I fell in love with you, only to be rejected when autumn came?’ She laughed, able now to make light of a situation that had hurt her deeply at the time. ‘Cast aside with all the other women who thought they’d be the one to tame you.’
‘You’ve always been different. Letting you go was the stupidest thing I ever did.’
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself. It wasn’t meant to be.’
‘You would have been good for me.’
‘I’m not sure
you’d
have been good for
me
. You were far too handsome and arrogant to stay faithful to one woman.’
‘I’m a different man from the one I was back then.’
‘Leopards don’t change their spots. Once a bounder, always a bounder. Still, you lasted with Claire for what? Ten years? That’s nine more than I expected.’
‘Look at you,’ he said, turning to face her, his cornflower-blue eyes intense with regret. ‘Happily married to Miles. Big, beautiful country house. Four blond, rosy children.’ He ran his gaze over her features. ‘More beautiful with every passing year.’
She blushed. ‘Oh, Luca, really, don’t. You only want what you can’t have.’
‘Are you happy with Miles?’
‘Very.’ She curled a tendril of blonde hair behind her ear.
‘Pity. I’d like to make love to you again.’
Freya withdrew her arm. ‘Just because you’re half Italian doesn’t mean you can say things like that to a married woman.’
‘You’re my oldest friend. There’s nothing I can’t say to you.’ He dragged on his cigarette, now barely a stub.
She lifted a china ashtray from the sofa table and handed it to him. ‘That’s a horrid habit. You should quit.’
‘Now’s not a good time.’
‘It never is.’
‘It’s as if I’m dying and seeing my life pass before my eyes. I was so consumed with making money I never had time for the important things. I’ve messed up my marriage. I never wanted to be one of those fathers who tears his children’s lives apart. But look at me. I’ve made more money than even Claire can spend in a lifetime. I doubt she can remember the last time she travelled commercial. Bloody woman’s fleecing me for as much as she can get. Yet, if she’s a monster, I’ve only myself to blame for turning her into one. Money’s no substitute for love. In spite of all my worldly goods, Freya, I’m an empty vessel.’
She touched his arm. ‘The girls will survive. I did.’
‘You were lucky. Your mother married again very quickly. Fitz picked you up before you had time to fall on your nose. Your mother’s not vindictive like Claire. She’s sensible. She didn’t poison you against your father.’
‘It’s still bewildering when you discover your parents don’t love each other any more and want to be with someone else. However amicable, you still feel you’re in some way to blame – they don’t love you enough to stay together. But children are resilient. They adapt quickly. Yours will too.’
‘John Tresco is no Fitzroy Davenport. It makes my skin crawl to think of him being a father to my daughters.’ He paled and took a final drag before stubbing out his cigarette.
‘Why don’t you disappear for the summer? You were just telling me about that amazing
palazzo
your parents have bought. The Amalfi coast sounds the perfect place to go and check out for a few months. Decide what you want to do. London is stifling in the summer and everyone goes away. You’ll only be miserable if you stay. Perhaps your girls could join you there in the holidays. Children love palaces.’
‘There’s nothing peaceful about my mother! I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding her.’
‘At the expense of your father.’
‘She’s relentlessly social. Can’t think how he puts up with all those people. That’s not what I need right now.’
‘A change of scenery will do you good – sun, sea, time to reflect.’
‘On all my mistakes!’
‘No one’s perfect.’
‘I’m carrying a heavy load, Freya.’
‘Then drop it. Go and visit your parents. I know Romina can be a bit over the top but she’s got a good heart. Blood is thicker than water and besides, I’m sure they’re longing to show you their
palazzo
.’
He looked at her and grinned. For an instant her stomach lurched as she glimpsed the handsome rogue of her youth in his now jaded features. ‘You see how good you are for me,’ he said, the twinkle in his eyes restored. ‘I should have married you while I had the chance. It’s taken me years to discover that the woman I have always loved has been right beside me all along. Miles is a lucky man.’
‘You’ll laugh at this conversation one day. You don’t really love me, you love what I represent. I’m like a sheltered harbour, but once you’ve taken time to recharge, you’ll realise that you don’t want a sheltered harbour. You’ve always been a man for the high seas. I’m far too placid for you, you’d get bored with me again like you did in seventy-nine.’
‘You’re wrong. I was never bored of you, I wasn’t ready to settle down, that’s all. Bad timing.’
‘Come, let’s go back to the drawing-room. Mum and Fitz will be arriving soon for lunch.’
‘No, let’s go for a walk.’
‘In this drizzle?’
‘You’re meant to be a country girl!’
‘It’s a huge pretence. I have to keep it up for Miles. He won’t touch London with a bargepole. Are you sure you don’t want to give Annabel a try?’ she asked, changing the subject. ‘I can tell she fancies you.’
‘She’s got that lean and hungry look that turns my blood cold,’ he replied, watching Freya’s nose crinkle with laughter. ‘I’ve begun to notice it in the eyes of single women pushing forty – as well as the loud tick-tock of their biological clocks. Thank you, Freya, for thinking of me, but I’ll pass.’
BOOK: The Italian Matchmaker
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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